Subtitles with Handbrake?

Discussion in 'Apple TV and Home Theater' started by hi-fi-video, Aug 15, 2012.

  1. hi-fi-video macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2012
    I'm at a loss here. I've been using Handbrake for a while now to create 1080p mp4 files from Blu-Ray rips. I use MakeMKV to create a mkv file, and then send it Handbrake to export to mp4. It's been working great so far, but things get ugly when I try and figure out a way to add subtitles to the mix. I don't need subtitles for every movie, but for those that have parts that are non-English, I'd like to be able to create forced subtitles.

    I'm currently using Handbrake version 0.9.5. I have chosen not to upgrade to the latest version, because I found the "Target Size" feature very useful. I watch these files both on my MacBook Pro and PS3, so I've formatted my external hard-drive to FAT32 so I can use it on both devices. And as you know, you cannot transfer files over 4GB so that feature comes in handy to make sure I don't go over that limit. Now with MakeMKV, there is no option to burn the subtitles into the mkv file. Instead, it uses the PGS/SUP Format which my current version of Handbrake cannot read. I've tried supplying Handbrake with separate SRT files that I've downloaded from websites, but they don't always synch properly.

    Any suggestions on how to obtain working subtitles to use with Handbrake based on my current approach? Or do I need to upgrade to the current version and learn some tricks on how to ensure I stay under a 4GB limit?
  2. mic j, Aug 15, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012

    mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    Move to the current version (actually a nightly version if you want PGS subtitles burned in). You are placing way to many unnecessary restrictions on yourself and that makes things more complicated than they need to be. Format the drive as NTFS and there is no file size limit.

    You don't mention whether your Windows or Mac, assuming Mac, you can adjust the sync of an srt with Subler, quite easily. You can also adjust the srt sync with Handbrake, but of course, this means doing another transcode from the original. Not sure what's on the Windows side to do this but I am sure there is something.
  3. hi-fi-video thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2012
    Alright, how do I format my hard-drive as NTFS? I'm running OS X 10.7.4. The only way I know how to format a hard-drive is through Disk Utility and I don't see that option there. Also, is a NTFS drive compatible with PS3?

    While part of me wants to get past that 4GB limit, I do like keeping the file sizes smaller so I can fit more movies onto my hard-drive, it's already almost full. Let's say I wanted to go the more complicated route and continue ripping using this method. Do you know of any way to extract subtitles from a Blu-Ray into a file that my current version of Handbrake can recognize and use?

    Attached Files:

  4. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    Wow! You want it all, don't you?:D

    NTSF needs to be formatted on a PC, unfortunately, Mac's can only read NTSF not write to it (unless you buy software to give that capability). So if you need to transfer files from your Mac to the PS3, you will need to either stay with FAT or reformat and buy software. From what I have seen, there is also an option to wirelessly transfer files to the PS3, but this is not an area I have any expertise in.

    Are you converting BR's? Most of my regular dvd's are around 1GB but BR's are a lot larger. You can still do a maximum file size in HB, I guess it takes some calculation and using Average Bit Rate instead of Constant Quality.

    As for subtitles, sync can always be an issue. I download, add them to the mp4 and adjust sync (if necessary) using Subler. This method is very quick as you only have to Save the file not transcode it again. If you really really really want to do your own BR subtitles, I have recently written a procedure on how to do it in one the topics below. I have also written a procedure for how I sync subtitles using Subler. Look up my posts and you will find them.
  5. adnbek macrumors 65816


    Oct 22, 2011
    Montreal, Quebec
    Don't format to NTFS. Your mac won't be able to write natively to the drive and the PS3 can't read NTFS at all, unless you are streaming from the drive through DLNA.
  6. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    You're a scholar and a gentleman! And you are absolutely correct. Sorry for the incorrect info.
  7. bluewooster macrumors member

    Jul 18, 2007
    You can use exFAT. This allows file size greater than 4gb. You can also use the drive with Mac or PC for both read and write. Not sure if PS3 can read exFAT or not though.
  8. HobeSoundDarryl, Aug 15, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2012

    HobeSoundDarryl macrumors 604


    Feb 8, 2004
    Hobe Sound, FL (20 miles north of Palm Beach)
    Suggestion: buy a new external drive already formatted for NTFS and use that for your Blu Ray media files. You can buy a lot of space for relatively cheap. Besides, you say that you are already running out of space with your <2GB MAX file size rips, so it sounds like you need more storage anyway.

    If you want to maintain compatibility for PS3, keep the existing drive and dedicate it to your PS3.

    Then, convert 2 versions of your movies: one without the 2GB cap (which is too small for quality BD rips anyway) and the other respecting the 2GB cap, probably scaling it down to 720p or maybe even 480p as part of keeping your files under 2GB. Store the former on your new NTFS drive and the latter on your current drive.

    While I would convert both from the master file, since you are also chasing burned-in subtitles, you might consider converting your >2GB file with those subtitles, then converting THAT file into a second, <2GB version (again, maybe 720p at higher compression). Your >2GB master file is going to look much better than the <2GB version but this option seems to do all that you are trying to do.

    Also, consider picking up an Apple TV for $99 ($85 refurbished). You may find that it covers the movie playback purpose of the PS3 such that you don't need those second copies anymore. If so, you could then repurpose your existing drive for something else (or just more storage). If this is a possibility, you might consider just doing it now and then ignoring the NTFS purchase and going with a Mac native formatted (big storage) external drive for your movies.
  9. GoSUV macrumors member

    Nov 5, 2008
    Hong Kong
    Handbrake does recognize PSG subtitles, but it is currently only limited to the nightly builds, not one of the "regular" releases readily available for downloads (e.g. the current 0.9.8).

    With that, you can choose to "burn-in" the foreign subtitles, if you are always going to show them in the movie anyway. If you use any one of the iDevices for viewing your movies and there is no easy way to toggle subtitles or change audio tracks, burning them in makes sense. Burning in means the subtitles become part of the image and video, and can't be turned off.

    When you rip your BD using MakeMKV, experiment which subtitle track(s) is the regular subtitle and which one is the forced foreign language subtitle in English. If in doubt, rip them all and play the .mkv file in VLC to make sure you have the correct one.

    Finally, convert a test chapter in small resolution in Handbrake where you know the foreign language is spoken, and see if this is the result you desire. For example, for the movie Toy Story 3, in chapter 24 when Buzz Lightyear was reset to be Spanish-speaking, you can test if the forced English subtitles were burned-in correctly. The other characters' speech should not be subtitled (if this is what you want).
  10. hi-fi-video thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2012
    Well, I've actually been making 4GB rips and am quite happy with them. I know that a lot of people here have more sensitive eyes than I do, and quality is priority over saving space, but that's not me. With the settings I'm using, yes, I do occasionally notice some minuscule imperfections, but it's nothing that ruins watching movie for me. I've noticed it's about the same quality as a 1080p iTunes download. So I know my approach is not for everyone, most have moved on, but it's what I like... it's what works for me. The only thing that's causing problems for me is movies with subtitles.

    I will be watching on other devices as well, so burning the subtitles into the rip using MakeMVK would solve my problems, but I'm not sure how to do that. If it is possible, could someone instruct me on how to do that?

    If not, I will either look into how to create my own subtitles like mic j suggested or downloading SRT files from sites like and synch them later with Subler.

    And you'll all have to forgive, I'm not extremely knowledgeable in this area, but why isn't there a program or approach to ripping subtitles straight from the Blu-Ray disk that you can use later in Handbrake along with the mkv file?
  11. Jim.R macrumors member

    Jul 19, 2012
    The issue is that the supplied DVD/BR subtitles are images laid over the movie images. MP4 doesn't support these as toggleable subtitles, only text based (ie. SRT) so you either need to burn in the subs from the disc (now supported in the latest Handbrake nightlies) or provide a textual version either by OCR-ing the ones on disc or downloading one from the 'net.
  12. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    You really can't use MakeMKV to burn the subtitles into the rip, only make sure you included them and maybe figure out which one(s) you want to use. Handbrake can burn in the subtitles, but for BR you have to use a nightly build as this function is not in the current stable release version.

    Here's some ideas as to why there are so few programs to do all this: 1) OCR of video overlays (VOBSUB & PGS) are notoriously inaccurate which means even after converting the overlays to text you have to proof every line of dialog. 2) Most movie's have srt files readily available for download (Thank someone for doing all the work to get them correct!!! and 3) Most people in the U.S. only care about forced sub's, which program's like HB, et. al., can handle by burning in the overlay (thus no errors to proof). Seems like a different situation rest-of-world though.

    If you want to burn forced subtitles in using Handbrake 1) rip using MakeMKV and select the top level subtitle track in the language you want (that will include both forced and non-forced subs), 2) download a nightly build, 3) go to the subtitles tab and select Foreign Audio Search under the Track column, 4) make sure forced and burn-in are checked. Handbrake will scan the movie, locate the forced subs track, and finally, burn it in...all as part of the transcoding process. It works really nicely.

    If you are wanting to do soft subs (be able to turn them on/off), I would recommend downloading and using Subler. If you can't find a download that works for you, then you can create your own. But it is a real process and not for the faint of heart. Interesting to learn though!;)
  13. hi-fi-video thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2012
    Alright, guess I should move over to the nightly build. Again, I want to create 4GB rips, not just because of the FAT32 limitation, but I also prefer to keep the sizes smaller so I can fit more movies onto one drive. Mic j, you said that, "You can still do a maximum file size in HB, I guess it takes some calculation and using Average Bit Rate instead of Constant Quality." What kind of settings do I need to use with the nightly build to make sure I stay at 4GB?
  14. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    I would like to recommend you try varying the constant quality setting until you get to a file size/quality that is acceptable. After doing a few movies you will get a pretty good idea of where you need to be to achieve what you need. Constant Quality is the most sure way of getting good video quality as it uses higher bitrates on area's of the film that needs it and lowers the bitrate on areas of the film that don't need it.

    If you absolutely want to do it by Target File Size, use this calculator ( to figure out what you need to set your average bit rate at.

    If you really want to understand the whole issue try this:
  15. Richdmoore macrumors 68000


    Jul 24, 2007
    Troutdale, OR
    One thing to add is to play the Bluray on a player and see if it selects a subtitle track on it's own. Some movies have a separate track only for the foreign subtitles, and they are usually not marked as forced.

    What I do is play the Bluray on my tv, and check the display menu on my player to see what audio, title, and subtitle is being automatically used. If it selects a subtitle automatically, I select that specific one in handbrake and burn that one in (forced only box unchecked). If it shows off for subtitle, I select the foreign audio search and burn in check box with the forced only checked.
  16. Fasm Trout macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2010
    Thanks for your instructions! I've been following them precicely but am having some difficulties... perhaps you (or someone) can offer some advice. I am on Windows 7 and I've tried two methods (a and b) - I'll try to be as detailed as possible:

    (I'm trying Kill Bill Vol. 1 - it has certain scenes in Japanese for which I would like subtitles burned-into the video. Oh and I'm going from MKV to MP4)

    1. Rip with MakeMKV.
    I check/select the video track, the desired audio tracks, and
    a) the top level english subtitles AND the forced track within
    b) the top level english subtitles ONLY

    Note: The output files are both identical in size, and VLC plays each with subtitles on at all times - not just the forced tracks. In each case, when making a subtitle selection in VLC there is only one track in addition to "Disable"

    2. Download HandBrake nightly build

    3. Subtitles tab > select Foreign Audio Search under the Track column

    4. Check/select "Forced Only" and "Burn In"

    Boom, that's, it, right? It should work! Except it doesn't. The resulting video plays fine, but there are no subtitles to be seen. In fact, just to be sure, I checked to see if maybe the subtitle track was something I had to toggle (not burned-in for some reason) but alas, nothing.

    I've tried it differen't ways too. Check "Default" instead of "Burn In," use English PGS instead of Foreign Audio Search, etc. Nothing works.

    I can't for the life of me figure it out. Forced subtitles are the bane of my existence! Please help :)
  17. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    I feel your pain! The Kill Bill's are sort of unique. They have the forced subtitles as separate tracks that can be selected. I only have the dvd not BR but I am pretty sure it is the same (per a forced subtitle spreadsheet at the AVS forum). I ripped the dvd to iso, which means all the subtitle tracks are present. There are 7 subtitle tracks. Track 1 and 2 seem identical to me and contain only the forced subs. Then, there are 4 CC tracks. The 7th track is a full subtitle containing both regular and non-english dialog.

    So...if you can, I would suggest launching the movie from the disc and view using VLC. Go to the subtitles pull down and figure out which tracks are which. Then when you use MakeMKV, make sure you get those track included in the rip (check using VLC before going to HB). The important thing is, there are no forced subtitles. So don't choose that option. In handbrake you will not choose the forced subtitles check box but instead, choose the track that contains the non-english dialog and check, burn-in. Like I said, haven't actually done this with BR but that is the way I think it should work out.
  18. Fasm Trout macrumors newbie

    Jan 30, 2010
    Thanks so much for the reply – I'll give it a shot and see how it goes. In the meantime, have you ever done a Blu-ray -> MKV -> Handbrake -> MP4 conversion, or have you only ever done that with DVDs? If you have successfully accomplished a subtitle burn-in with a Blu-ray, mind sharing (some of) the title(s) with me so that I can follow your instructions above (post 12 in this thread)?

    I just want to make sure I'm not making any mistakes. I realize every movie out there is authored differently but if you and I each get the same results on the same movie, it will at least help me realize that I'm doing things properly.

    Thanks again!
  19. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    I've had the same issue with "Taken"; HB doesn't recognise the non-English dialog. What I did was revert to the "old" methodology of burning in non-English subs:

    1. Rip the movie and all English subtitle tracks with MakeMKV
    2. Extract all the sub tracks with MKVTools (I'm on a Mac, and don't know if this is also for Windows or if you need another app to extract the tracks).
    3. Using BDSup2Sub, review the tracks until you find the non-English only track - export it as a .sub file.
    4. Merge the new subtitle track into your original .mkv movie rip - I use MKVMerge (again, this may be Mac only).
    5. Set up your HB encode as normal, but on the Subtitle page, select your new .sub track in the drop down menu and check "Burned in" but do not check "Forced only".

    That will give you the non-English subs only, in the original font/colour etc. It sounds like a lot, but each of the steps is relatively quick.
  20. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    If my understanding of how HB does the forced subs is correct, you need a forced flag on the forced subtitle track. Kill Bill does not have a track with a force flag, so HB will not pick it up if you do a Foreign Language Audio search. I suppose it's possible that Taken does not have a forced flag as well. If it did, I would expect HB to find it. Interesting.:confused:
  21. dynaflash macrumors 68020

    Mar 27, 2003
    True, but with Foreign audio search hb will also do a preliminary scan for subs showing up 10% or less in the movie and then presume they are "forced".

    But it is correct that forced subs from source to source can be done many ways. So it can be a situation where you have to manually check in say ... dvdplayer to see which track is the forced track. Then choose that track in HB.
  22. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    From my scrounging around, I ran across that the "forced" subtitle track for Taken is the english subtitle track and like Kill Bill has no force flag. So this would seem like 2 situations where the scan for 10% or less is not picking up the subtitles...or maybe they are 11%. Any volunteers to measure them?;)
  23. mic j, Aug 21, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012

    mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012
    I have not gotten a BR with forced subs since HB incorporated the PGS sub capability in the nightly's. I will look back through what I have and try it out on a chapter or 2...maybe Iron Man.

    Update: I really don't have anything on hand to go in parallel with you. All the BR's I have on hand do not have forced subs. But don't worry, charge into it and it will be fine. There are a few out there that are know to be atypical: Kill Bill, Avatar, Taken. Here is a link to a list of movies with forced subs and some info about the nature of the forced subs:
  24. rayward macrumors 68000

    Mar 13, 2007
    Houston, TX
    When I had to go "old school" on Taken, I was not able to select any subtitle track in HB without extracting, converting to .sub and remuxing it into my .mkv.

    Am I missing a trick?



    No way that the forced subs in Taken are more than 10%. It's literally a few lines; less even that the famous "I will find you" speech.
  25. mic j macrumors 68030

    Mar 15, 2012

    By chance, do you have the original that you could run Media Info on? Or, if you read on the link that Dynaflash provided, you can look at the Activity Window and see the "hits" the various tracks are getting. That would be fun.

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